Bangkok Churches and Mosques
Places of Worship in Bangkok
Bangkok is not just an old city, but also a crossroads where people of different races, regions and religions have for centuries converged. Part of its success, and of what makes it so stimulating, lies in its ability through the ages to integrate and engage these immigrant groups peacefully, in a way conducive to trade, the exchange of ideas and to prosperity (as well as to warding off colonial invasion!).
While Buddhism dominates, religious tolerance and respect has long helped facilitate this coexistence, and is evident still today in Bangkok's myriad other places of worship. Many are wonderful examples of foreign or colonial architecture.
Located in Bangrak, this is Bangkok's principal Roman Catholic cathedral and the main church of the Archdiocese of Bangkok, which dates back to 1662. It was built between 1910 and 1918 to replace an earlier church on the same spot, and repaired after sustaining severe damage during World War II. Pope John Paul II visited the church during his trip in 1984.
An impressive tall structure, it has a striking, almost luminescent red brick facade that contrasts pleasingly with surrounding buildings. The beautiful interior is classic Romanesque, with round arches, looming ceilings covered in rich rococo and stained glass. Murals on the walls of the nave at the end depict biblical scenes. There's a choir here, and although open everyday, mass on Sundays is especially popular (at 6am, 7:30am, 8:30am, 10am and 5pm).
- Location: 23 Oriental Lane, Charoenkrung Road
- How to get there: Either take a taxi or embark the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Oriental Pier (N1).
After an influx of protestant missionaries in the early to mid 19th Century, King Rama IV granted land for a church to be built to serve them in Charoenkrung Road. However, it wasn't long until the English Church (as it was then known due its mainly English congregation) was overstretched. In 1904 King Rama V granted permission for a bigger and more centrally located church to be built.
The result was this lovely white Anglican Church on Convent Road (next to BNH Hospital), built in simple gothic-meets-colonial style. Today it serves a congregation of around 500, lending spiritual shelter from Sathorn Road's teeming traffic. The interior is painted white and contains stained glass windows, one of which depicts Christ's crucifixion. It also contains Thailand's only pipe organ. Services and sermons are given in both Thai and English.
- Opening Hours: 08:30 - 16:30 (closed Saturday and Sunday)
- Location: 11 Convent Road, Sathorn
- Tel: +66 (0)2 234 3634
- How to get there: From BTS Skytrain Sala Daeng Station (exit 2), turn left into Convent Road and continue until you reach Sathorn Road and the church will be on your left.
This old mosque on the bank of the Saen Sap Canal was once a simple construction, built of nothing more than wood and covered by a modest thatched roof. Over 100 years ago local Muslims raised funds and employed Chinese contractors to rebuild it. Completed in 1893, its most impressive artifacts are the 'mimbar', a harmoniously decorated wooden pulpit from which the imam preaches, and a wooden arch intricately carved with foliage and vine patterns, from where he leads prayers.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:00
- Location: 18/1 Khu Khwo Road, Nong Chok district
- How to get there: Taxi is probably the best way to go.
Guru Tawan Sikh Temple
Pahurat, on the edge of Chinatown, is the heart of Bangkok's small but lively Sikh community. Within it stands this white six-story Sikh temple topped with golden dome. It was built in 1932 and is the second largest of its kind outside India. On the fourth floor is the congregation hall, and on the fifth an international school. The top floor is the main prayer area, and has a copy of Sikhism's holy book, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, interned on a flower-filled altar. Visitors must remove shoes and cover their heads with a provided orange cloth in accordance with Sikh customs.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 - 18:00
- Location: 66 Charoenkrung Road, Little India, Pahurat
- How to get there: Take the Chao Phraya River Boat to Memorial Bridge Pier (N6), then walk up Chakraphet Road.
Found amidst a web of alleyways near the famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Haroon Mosque is one of the busiest and oldest in the city. The original one-storey wooden structure was replaced by brick-coloured concrete after it crumbled down beyond repair. Inside, the mosque showcases intricately carved Arabic script and can hold up to 500 prayers at one time.
- Location: Charoenkrung 36 (near Mandarin Oriental Hotel)
- How to get there: Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Oriental Pier. The mosque is a five-minute walk from Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Holy Rosary Church
While originally built on the banks of the Chao Phraya in 1768, following a land grant by King Rama I, the Portuguese Catholic church seen today is the result of rebuilding work between 1891 and 1898. This restoration lent it its Neo-Gothic style, showcasing an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary, towering central spire, marigold facade, curving gilded stucco ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows, depicting stories from the Old and New Testament. In Thai, it is known as the Kalawar Church, a name originally derived from the hill where Jesus Christ was crucified.
- Location: Near River City Complex
- How to get there: Embark the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Si Phraya Pier.
Santa Cruz Church
The Portuguese have been allies with Thailand since 1516, when they began supplying the country with arms and ammunitions to help ward off Burmese aggression. After the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, and with it the Catholic church there, King Taksin granted permission for them to build another one in the new capital Thonburi, a gift in recognition of their vital services. Nestled on the banks of the Chao Phraya, the idiosyncratic result is this church in the Kudi Jeen area.
Originally made from wood, it fell into disrepair until a Cardinal had it rebuilt in 1835 and renamed it Santa Cruz Church. By 1913, however, the same had happened. King Rama VI again ordered its restoration, but this time enlisted the help of two renowned Italian architects, Annibale Rigotti and Mario Tamagno. Found tucked inside a small cloister rimmed by a wrought iron fence, the result, a cream-toned church with reddish dome and a graceful Italian-style features, is still here today. The rectangular belfry is decorated with stucco and contains dozens of bells, still chimed today on auspicious occasions. There are 14 sculptures depicting scenes from Jesus' life, and the walls are decorated with stained glass biblical images.
- Location: Soi Kudi Jeen, Thonburi
- How to get there: Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Rajinee Pier (N7), then catch the Pak Khlong ferry across the river.
Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
This Hindu temple dedicated to the Goddess Mariamman was built by Tamil immigrants in the 1860s. Renowned for her power to protect against disease and death, it remains a popular place of worship for Silom's long-established Indian community. Its riotous blend of rich colours and ornate decoration makes for an unmistakable and rather unexpected sight in the heart of Silom.
The tall façade is adorned with intricate, entwining Hindu deities. Inside are shrines dedicated not only to Shiva's consort, but also sons Subramaniam and the elephant-headed Ganesha, as well as Vishnu and Krishna. It's well worth seeing, but taking pictures inside the complex is forbidden.
- Opening Hours: 06:00 - 20:00
- Location: Corner Pan and Silom Roads, Silom
- How to get there: The BTS Skytrain Chong Nonsi Station drops you about 500 metres from the temple. Take exit 3 and walk towards Silom Road. At the intersection, turn left and continue walking for another 15 minutes until you see the temple on your left.
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat
Nestled in the heart of Chinatown, Bangkok's most important and largest Chinese-Buddhist temple is the hub of festivities during festivals like Chinese New Year and contains spectacular Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian shrines. It dates back to 1872, and was called Wat Leng Noei Yee until King Rama V changed it to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (which means Dragon Lotus Temple).
You enter via a decorative passageway from Charoenkrung Road and into a large courtyard. The low-slung temple complex within is decorated in typical Chinese style, intricately carved dragons and other familiar motifs throughout. Inside the various rooms are altars to Buddha as well as Taoist deities. Explore its passages and you'll find a small cloister with cases of gilded Buddha images in the double 'abhaya mudra', or 'Buddha teaches reason' position. The temple is especially crowded with worshipers in January and during Chinese New Year.
- Opening Hours: 9:00 - 18:00 daily
- Location: Charoenkrung Road, Chinatown
- How to get there: Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Ratchawongse Pier (N5), then walk up Ratchawongse Road for about 15 minutes.